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Government reaches agreement on teachers' "frozen" service

After an almost 20 year struggle, the Government reached an agreement with seven unions on Tuesday regarding the recovery of teachers' frozen years of service - something that former PM António Costa said could never happen.

The National Education Federation (FNE) was the first union to reach an agreement with the Ministry on Tuesday on the recovery of the six years, six months and 23 days of service time frozen by previous governments, largely as part of Portugal's bailout programme in 2010-2014 (known to the portuguese, as "the Troika").

The other's six who signed are: National Federation of Teaching and Research (Fenei), Independent Union of Teachers and Educators (SIPE), Portuguese Federation of Education, Teaching, Culture and Research Professionals (Fepeci), National Union of Polytechnic and University Graduate Teachers (Spliu), National Union of Graduate Teachers (SNPL) and Union of Primary School Educators and Teachers (Sippeb).

The service time will be recovered in two years and 10 months, starting on September 1 this year and ending on July 1, 2027. Teachers who have already managed to recover some of their service time will see it deducted, with the exception of time lost on the lists.

"With this timetable, what we've been able to guarantee is that in the first year teachers will receive 50% of the total time, and with a duration of two years and ten months the full amount will be recovered."

What's more, all the teachers who have been frozen will get their time back and "they will all be exempt from the vacancies for access to the 5th and 7th step, and we wanted to guarantee that this progression would take place on the date that the teachers fulfil the conditions".

In this way, the government ended up coming closer to the FNE's counter-proposal, which began the negotiations asking for 30 per cent in 2024, 30% in 2025, 20% in 2026 and the final 20% in 2027, then presented a new counter-proposal that provided for 25% to be counted annually, as has now been established.

“It took a long time, but to good effect”, explained FNE general secretary Pedro Barreiros.

President Marcelo praises the agreement

Immediatedly after the announcement, the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, commented on the news, saying that the agreement "is pacifying" and that teachers deserve it.

"I already knew about this very recent news and I think it's an issue that is an electoral commitment and that teachers deserve, and it's pacifying for the next school year," said Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Asked if he was worried about the start of the next school year, President Marcelo replied that he is not.

"I'm not worried, but I think it's important to resolve this issue, and the sooner the better, because then there are other tasks for the government," he added.

Agreement rejected by largest unions

However, Fenprof, STOP, SPLEU, ASPL and Pró-Ordem did not sign the agreement for the recovery of length of service proposed by the government.

According to a Fenprof source, the agreement proposed by the government does not cover 25,400 teachers. "This is an agreement that excludes teachers". "Although we're not signing the agreement, we're available for additional minutes to say what we think is important and has evolved and what we don't like," he added.

The other unions point to the "lack of an explicit commitment for teachers who are 60 years old, for example, and who are on the 8th, 9th and 10th steps". With the proposal on the table, says a union source, these professionals "won't get back the time they've worked and the Ministry didn't want to include a reference to them in the agreement".

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